Paper Engineering Students Give Office Paper Second Life
More than 800 pounds of paper was kept out of the waste stream thanks to paper engineering students at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).
Students in the senior design course were tasked with engineering two grades of paper for their final project. The one requirement is a portion of the raw materials for the paper run had to come from office paper used on campus that would normally be recycled elsewhere.
Students had to make office paper suitable for use in printers and copiers, and coverstock, a heavier paper that can be used on campus for covering laboratory manuals.
"The project is a culminating experience that draws together everything they've learned over the past four years," said Professor Gary Scott.
This is a completely student-driven, semester-long group project. Once students know what type of paper they have to produce they need to figure out how to produce it on ESF's large paper machine. "They have to plan their semester by themselves," he said. Scott and Ray Appleby, pilot plant director, are available to answer students' questions but otherwise, they work independently. "It's one project for the entire class and they have to organize themselves."
"The goal is to make the project as close to a real-life professional experience as possible," Scott said.
To make the paper, students work through the engineering process from laboratory studies to making small sheets of paper by hand and then scaling up production to the College's 12-inch paper machine before moving to large-scale production on the 48-inch paper machine. The 48-inch machine is the largest at an educational facility in the world, said Scott.
"The large-machine run is a production run, where students are trying to make as much paper as possible that meets the specifications of the assigned paper," said Scott.
The copy paper the students made is still in rolls from the paper machine but will be cut down to 8.5-by-11-inch paper and tested to ensure it can run through printers and copiers without causing paper jams and has a good print quality.
Preliminary tests look good, according to Scott. "As the paper was coming off the machine, I would tear out sheets, then manually cut it down to eight-and-a-half-by-11 sheets and run it through a printer and copier," he said.
Except for being a little less bright than virgin paper, Scott said, the student-produced paper is completely suitable for use on campus.
There are only a handful of colleges that teach papermaking in the United States and only about four that have a degree in paper engineering, said Scott.
ESF's paper engineering program falls under the College's Department of Chemical Engineering. "Paper engineering is chemical engineering," said Scott. "It supplies a solid foundation. You're not just limited to paper. You can take that chemical knowledge and science and go."
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